President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Imo State last week was significant for the state and the region as it attracted dignitaries across the South East zone to interface with the president.
However, signs that a major event was in the offing in the state, often regarded as the Eastern Heartland, became manifest when Governor Hope Uzodimma started to give the state a new look through construction of new roads, reconstruction, painting the pavements and planting of flowers.
As Imo people wondered what was happening, the governor, on his return from a trip to Abuja, announced that Mr President would be visiting the state.
To buttress it’s assertion, the commissioner for Information and Strategy, Hon Declan Emelumba, at a press conference to herald the presidential visit, said the state was set to host the president who will commission a N2 Billion balloon technology designed to eliminate perennial flooding witnessed in the state and its environs and other laudable road projects.
The commissioner named other projects to be commissioned by the president as “the first phase of the Naze/Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze Road, which plays host to both the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) and the Federal Polytechnic Nekede which was previously in a deplorable condition, an Ultra Modern World Class Council Chambers at the Government House Owerri as well as the Egbeada by pass road.
Emelumba stated that the president would hold a crucial meeting with critical stakeholders from the South East region at the Government House Owerri.
He however pleaded with the people of the state to come out en-masse and accord the president a rousing welcome, assured adequate security and warned mischief makers and “individuals with sinister motives to foment trouble to purge themselves of this or face the full weight of the law.”
The president arrived in Imo State as planned. The visit was significant as it was insightful. The perception of the president in the South East zone has not been palatable.
Although the presidency has repeatedly tried to dispel insinuations that the president bears no ill-will towards the zone, the intrigues surrounding the proscribed IPOB group and trial of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has remained topical.
Interestingly, Imo which was known for its peace and tranquility, had in recent times, witnessed a myriad of disturbances by the unknown gunmen.
But thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Imo State government and the federal government, the state has since returned to its usual peaceful nature.
As such, pundits, like Emeka Ikechukwu a political analyst, argued that the visit would provide the president an opportunity to disabuse the minds of people from the region that he means well towards them.
During the one day official visit to the state, Buhari commissioned the phase one of the Naze/Nekede/Ihiagwa/Obinze link road, the balloon driven/flood control tunnel on Dick Tiger Road, the Egbeada By-pass road (now Iwuanyanwu Way) and the New Executive Chambers, all built by the governor, promising to assist him do more.
While commending the governor on the projects done in the state, he said, “I have seen enough that justifies the integrity of your Governor. Your Governor’s ideas on road infrastructure and security coincided with my own and I assure you that at the centre, I will try and encourage Imo State within the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
After commissioning the projects, the president met with leaders of thought from the South East.
During the interaction, Buhari told the SouthEast leaders: “I want to leave as somebody who stabilised the country, in the remaining 18 months.
“I will make sure within the system I will stop corruption. Today, elections are free and fair. I will try to keep myself as clean as possible.”
He added, “The fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you visit in Nigeria without seeing the Igbo being in charge of either infrastructure or the pharmaceutical industry.
“Therefore, it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man would consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria. The evidence is there for everyone to see that Igbo are in charge of Nigeria’s economy,” he said.
Earlier in his address, Governor Uzodimma informed the president that the harvest of commissioning of projects built by his administration commenced in March this year and recalled that President Buhari was the first to commission two strategic roads virtually and expressed happiness that he was “here today (Thursday) in flesh and blood to commission more and equally important projects.”
He added that “the request for the President to visit Imo State was not for the fun of it rather to commission some projects that are strategic, socially and economically.”
He explained that the Naze/Nekede/Ihiagwa/Obinze link road commissioned by Mr. President “is only an addition to the 46 solid roads including the Muhammadu Buhari Avenue which houses the Federal Secretariat that have been already commissioned.”
Explaining the rationale for the balloon driven tunnel, he said, “The Balloon-Driven Tunnel at the base of Dick Tiger road which we are commissioning today, was built to check the flooding in the area and recover properties swallowed by flood in the last twenty years. The Tunnel is 2.5kilometers in length, 1.8 meters in diameter and between 0.9 and 11.5meter in depth with 94 manholes.”
Leaving the president with words of solidarity, Uzodimma expressed the commitment of his administration to the peace and unity of Nigeria which he said is “IRREVOCABLE” and highlighted that through the inclusive government of the Shared Prosperity which he runs, he has been able to accommodate every Nigerian resident in Imo State.
“The aim being to build a mini Nigeria in Imo State, where everyone has a sense of not only belonging but unfettered accommodation.”
President general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, in his welcome address, appealed to Buhari to ensure that Igbo Youths held in various detention facilities across the country by security operatives are released.
He stressed that Ndigbo are not separatists and that the Igbo nation would continue to be part of Nigeria as long as Justice, Equity and Fair play. His words, “Mr President, your visit and presence today in Igboland and Owerri Imo State in particular has more than political significance.
“It is in this same vein that Ohanaeze Ndigbo appeals to you, Mr President, to seek the release of Igbo Youths detained by various security agencies across the country.”
Although these are early days yet, the impact of the meeting will be visible in the coming days some pundits aver.